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On December 5, Governor Quinn signed into law his number one priority – historic legislation that addresses the most critical fiscal challenge in Illinois by reforming the state’s pension systems. This comprehensive pension reform solution will eliminate the state’s unfunded liability and fully fund the pension systems, a standard set by the Governor two years ago.
After inheriting the worst-funded pension crisis in the nation due to decades of mismanagement, the Governor made pension reform his top priority. In June, he proposed a conference committee to break the ongoing legislative gridlock, and this vehicle led to the bill he signed today. Earlier this year, the Governor suspended legislative salaries and refused to accept his own salary until pension reform was sent to his desk. Governor Quinn worked tirelessly with legislative leaders and members to pass the Senate Bill 1. This bill will ensure retirement security for those who have faithfully contributed to the pension systems, end the squeeze on critical education and healthcare services, and support economic growth.
Governor Pat Quinn announced more than $1 million in federal aid has been approved to help people and households affected by the Nov. 17 tornadoes and severe storms. Federal grants totaling $1.06 million as of mid-December will help with disaster-related expenses such as temporary home rental, home repairs and replacement of damaged personal property items.
Governor Quinn successfully secured federal aid for 15 counties just nine days after an Illinois November record of 25 tornadoes caused widespread destruction across the state. The federal disaster declaration includes Champaign, Douglas, Fayette, Grundy, Jasper, LaSalle, Massac, Pope, Tazewell, Vermilion, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, Will and Woodford counties.
Anyone affected by the Nov. 17 tornadoes and severe storms is encouraged to register for federal assistance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers the assistance program, has a toll-free telephone number 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) (for hearing and speech impaired) to apply for assistance. Registration also can be done online at disasterassistance.gov or by smartphone or tablet at m.fema.gov. The deadline to register for federal disaster aid is Jan. 27, 2014. In addition to FEMA grants, disaster survivors may be eligible for low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which were also made available under the federal disaster declaration.
One week before Christmas, Governor Pat Quinn visited Chicago’s historic St. Pius V Church to continue his ongoing fight to raise Illinois’ minimum wage from $8.25 to at least $10. The Governor first proposed raising the minimum wage in his 2013 State of the State address.
A full-time minimum wage worker in Illinois makes around $16,600 annually, which is well below the Federal Poverty Threshold of $17,916 for a family of three. The Governor supports raising the minimum wage to at least $10, and then tying raises in the minimum wage to the cost of living thereafter. By increasing the Illinois minimum wage to $10, a half-million Illinois consumers will make an extra $4,800 a year and much of that extra income will typically be spent at local businesses on food, clothing and furniture, providing a strong boost to the local economy. In addition, studies conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago show that an increase of $1 in the minimum wage generates approximately $3,000 in household spending per year, greatly improving purchasing power and strengthening our economy.
On December 13, Governor Pat Quinn was joined by officials from the University of Illinois and UI LABS to launch the Illinois Manufacturing Lab (IML) – a key initiative to increase the competitiveness, productivity and profitability of Illinois’ manufacturers. Proposed by the Governor in his 2013 State of the State address, the IML is launching its initial efforts today with pilot projects at ten Illinois companies to identify and solve advanced manufacturing challenges.
The IML brings an innovative, public-private approach to implementing advanced manufacturing technology applications for Illinois small and medium-sized manufacturers. It brings together top-flight research capabilities, technical resources and commercialization expertise, and will serve as a hub for companies to learn the world’s most sophisticated tools and software. The ten pilot projects announced today are the IML’s initial venture. They are focused on increasing the productivity of manufacturers’ design, testing, and/or manufacturing process by using modeling, simulation and high-performance computing (HPC).
The following Illinois manufacturing companies are partnering with the IML on the initial pilot projects:
Governor Pat Quinn joined local and state officials on December 17th to cut the ribbon and open the new $29 million Morgan Street Bridge over the Rock River. The 497-foot Morgan Street Bridge includes a 370-foot tiered arch main span anchored to each bank of the river. The original bridge, which was built in 1916, was recommended for replacement in a 2000 bridge study. The new bridge includes a new roadway plus improved lighting, railings, sidewalks and a multi-use path.
The Federal Highway Major Bridge Fund, administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), provided $21.17 million for the bridge project. $4.26 million came from Governor Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program, and $3.55 million from the city of Rockford. The Morgan Street Bridge is part of a $40 million project that also involves $11 million worth of road work on both sides of the river. This includes reconstructing College Avenue from the bridge to Kishwaukee Street; Morgan Street from the new bridge to South Main Street; plus intersection upgrades. The City of Rockford also paid for land acquisition, utilities and engineering costs.
On December 9, Governor Pat Quinn announced that more than 1,470 affordable apartments will be created or preserved for working families, seniors and people with disabilities in communities across the state. Financing for the apartments was approved from two sources – the federal low-income housing tax credit (Housing Credit) and the Illinois Housing Development Authority’s (IHDA) Preservation Now program. A new round of Housing Credit financing will support the construction and rehabilitation of 1,021 units in 16 developments in the areas of Chicago, Metro East, Springfield and Peoria.
Under the state’s Preservation Now program, more than 450 units of affordable housing for hard-working families and seniors will be preserved in six developments located in Southern Illinois, Peoria and the Quad Cities. This combined financing will support an estimated 2,400 jobs statewide and local real estate tax and revenue will be generated to spur economic activity. Under Governor Quinn, IHDA has financed the creation and preservation of more than 17,800 rental homes statewide.
Developments approved for financing include:
On December 19, Governor Pat Quinn departed for the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, Md., on his annual journey to personally deliver holiday cards to wounded Illinois servicemembers. Each year schoolchildren across Illinois demonstrate their overwhelming support for our troops through the Illinois Heroes holiday card drive, which helps ensure a brighter holiday for wounded soldiers.
This year marks the ninth time that Governor Quinn has visited Illinois troops and their families for Christmas. For the previous eight years, Governor Quinn traveled to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) in Germany, which is the largest American hospital outside of the United States. Since many servicemembers have returned home after the drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Governor Quinn will visit the WRNMMC this year.
On December 17, Governor Pat Quinn was joined by Greater Chicago Food Depository CEO Kate Maehr to volunteer at the Jesse Brown Veterans Food Pantry and emphasize the importance of supporting Illinois food banks this holiday season and into next year.
The new Jesse Brown Veterans Food Pantry at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center serves veterans under a partnership between the Greater Chicago Food Depository, AmeriCorp and the Jesse Brown VAMC. The pantry is unique in that it offers veterans a “Client Choice” model of food distribution enabling veterans to select their own food unlike many pantries that only offer fixed boxes or bags of food. The choice allows veterans to better meet their personal dietary needs, increases satisfaction for individuals and creates less waste. The pantry is one of the largest in the nation and will help the thousands of veterans who live below the poverty line in Illinois.
The pantry, located at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center on the 2nd floor of the Damen Pavilion, distributes food from the Greater Chicago Food Depository to veterans every Tuesday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.
On December 23, Governor Pat Quinn joined retired astronaut Captain James A. Lovell, Jr., for a reenactment of Lovell’s famous 1968 “Christmas Eve Broadcast to Earth.” Standing in front of Lovell’s Apollo 8 capsule at the Museum of Science and Industry, the reenactment included the voices of student Mary Doro and the father of student Anne Wagner, who Governor Quinn called the “heroes of Downers Grove North”.
As 1968 drew to a close, people stopped what they were doing on Christmas Eve to watch Capt. Lovell, Commander Frank Borman and Pilot William Anders read excerpts of the Book of Genesis as their tiny capsule orbited the moon. Viewed by one-quarter of humanity, the reading was the most-watched TV broadcast at the time and earned an Emmy Award.
Since the 1960s, the Gemini and Apollo program astronauts have been hailed as heroes. The Governor noted that heroism comes in many forms, and one example of it is seen in the story of Anne Wagner, Mary Doro and their Downers Grove North High School classmates. Anne Wagner, who has Down syndrome, missed half of her sophomore year and most of her junior year after being diagnosed with leukemia. After returning to school in her senior year, her friend - Mary Doro - and other classmates launched a successful social networking drive to elect her 2013 Homecoming Queen. Governor Quinn proclaimed Oct. 15, 2013 to be “Downers Grove North High School Day in Illinois” in honor of Anne’s bravery and her classmates’ passion to honor her. For the reenactment, Mary Doro read the part of Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders, and Anne Wagner’s father read the role of Commander Frank Borman.
On December 17th, Governor Quinn announced that a coalition of 20 health and hospital organizations from Illinois had been awarded an 18-month, $7-million federal award to establish a clinical data research network (CDRN). Awarded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), the award will allow the coalition to be part of a larger national network that will model how healthcare institutions in complex urban settings improve health outcomes and drive down costs for both rare and common conditions such as sickle cell disease, asthma, anemia, recurrent clostridium difficile, obesity and diabetes.
The coalition, the Chicago Area Patient Centered Outcomes Research Network (CAPriCORN), will pool data from more than 1 million patients so researchers locally and nationwide can learn how providers can overcome barriers of competition, care fragmentation and limited resources. This will aid in the development, testing and implementation of effective strategies to improve care for diverse populations and reduce health disparities. The Chicago Community Trust and the Illinois Medical District Commission will facilitate and administer this unprecedented collaboration.
Governor Pat Quinn proclaimed December 9 as “Mike Ditka Day” in Illinois in recognition of the Chicago Bears' retirement of Ditka's jersey number 89 during halftime at that night’s Bears – Cowboys game in Chicago. The former Bears player and coach became the 14th and final player to have his number retired by the team.
“When people think of football they think of Mike Ditka,” Governor Quinn said. “He was the best tight end of all time, and 'Da Coach’ molded and guided arguably the best football team of all time – the 1985 Super Bowl-winning Bears. He is one of just two men to win a championship as both player and coach. I urge all Illinoisans to join me in congratulating him today.”